Thursday, 14 June 2018

Jacqui Rose on The Fun of Recurring Characters


When I was a little girl whenever I saw a movie or read a book, I always wanted to know what happens next to my favourite character, to the point where I’d spend hours writing the sequels of famous novels, everything from Wuthering Heights to Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. So, I wasn’t surprised to find myself having recurring characters in my own books, though it certainly wasn’t a deliberate plan, I just think that there are certain characters that still have so much more to say. They’re like a friend to me; I continue to be interested to see how they evolve, how they react in certain situations and hopefully my readers feel that too. 

I don’t plan my books, nor do I make notes, it’s all in my head and the story seems to evolve right in front of my eyes. I don’t know what’s going to happen nor do I know what characters will appear, so it was a great surprise to meet Alfie Jennings in my first book Taken. I remember beginning to write him and I also remember not thinking much about him, assuming that he would be a side player but the more I wrote the more Alfie began to take on shape, and before I knew it he was the lead male protagonist. Rather than him being just a Soho gangster, he had a story as well as a back story, he had complicated emotions and relationships which needed to be explored. Now I didn’t know all this when I was writing Taken, that started to evolve as I sat down to write each book. Alfie just wouldn’t go away. He had more to say, and so did the people around him so before I knew it I had an ensemble cast who all became firm favourites of my readers, though on a side note I do I think it’s vital for the recurring character to grow and move on emotionally, for them to react to scenarios and people differently otherwise I think it becomes very stale, they become template characters, ones that you can second guess what he or she does. And there certainly has to be continual surprises in their behaviour and they still have to create that enjoyment with the reader as if they were discovering them for the first time.

That’s the great thing about recurring characters because you have the space and the time to explore them. So yes, as you can see, I do love the recurring character but there also is a flip side to them…. As much as I love following my characters journey like a faithful friend, they can make a novel trickier to write. For example, your book needs to feel like a standalone but still have the recurring characters which come complete with a back story. And that’s sometimes difficult; to explain to the reader who hasn’t read the books in order the back story of the characters without making the regular reader have to go over things they already know. For me this might not be such a problem if I hadn’t made my life even harder by introducing a cliff-hanger in my latest book, Toxic! When I came to write Fatal which will be out early next year, I had to think hard about the balance; still driving the story forward, still holding the readers but still merging the backstory and cliff-hanger by showing not telling. It wasn’t easy, but I loved the challenge as I like to push myself as an author, exploring the whole art of storytelling. I’m certainly a big fan of the recurring character but one day the question, the big dilemma will be, when should I kill them off? 

Happily, I’m not ready to see the last of my characters just yet and I hope that neither are my readers but watch this space. But maybe if I kill them off too soon, like they did in Dallas I can always bring them back in the shower and pretend it was just one big dream! 
Toxic by Jacqui Rose published in ebook by Harper Collins on 14 June 2018

Sometimes love is toxic…  Bree Dwyer is desperate to escape her husband, take the children and run. But he’s always watching. And she always gets caught. Until her first love, Alfie Jennings, returns to Essex.  Gangsters Alfie and Vaughn have been out of the game for a while, but a life of crime is one you never forget.  To get back on top they need serious money, because loyalty and power don’t come for free. One dangerous job and they’ll have the payoff they need. And Alfie isn’t going to let anyone get in the way, least of all a pretty face like Bree.  It’s time to show Essex what they’re made of. And this time, Alfie and Vaughn aren’t backing down.

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